How Melatonin Can Help You Sleep and Feel Better
Roughly up 7 million Australians are affected by poor sleep.
Although it is a common problem, poor sleep can have severe consequences.
Poor sleep can deplete your energy, lower your productivity and increase the risk of diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body when it is time to head to bed. It has also become a popular supplement among people struggling to fall asleep.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by your body.
It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain but also found in other areas, such as the eyes, bone marrow and gut.
It is often called the “sleep hormone,” as high levels can help you fall asleep.
However, melatonin itself won’t knock you out. It simply lets your body know that it is night-time so you can relax and fall asleep easier.
Melatonin supplements are popular among people struggling with insomnia and jet lag.
How Does It Work?
Melatonin works together with your body’s circadian rhythm.
In simple terms, the circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It lets you know when it’s time to sleep, wake and eat.
Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels.
Melatonin levels start to rise in your body when it is dark outside, signalling to your body that it is time to sleep.
It also binds to receptors in the body and can help you relax. For instance, melatonin binds to receptors in the brain to help reduce nerve activity. In the eyes, it can help reduce dopamine levels, a hormone that helps you stay awake.
Although the exact way melatonin helps you fall asleep is unclear, research suggests these processes can help you fall asleep.
Conversely, light suppresses melatonin production. This is one way that your body knows it is time to wake up.
As melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep, people who don’t make enough of it at night can struggle to fall asleep.
There are many factors that may cause low levels at night. Stress, smoking, exposure to too much light at night (including blue light), not getting enough natural light during the day, shift work and aging all affect melatonin production.
Taking a melatonin supplement may help counter low levels and normalise your internal clock.
Melatonin Can Help You Fall Asleep
Evidence shows that taking melatonin before bed can help you get to sleep.
In an analysis of 19 studies on people with sleep disorders, scientists found that melatonin helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes.
In many of these studies, people also reported significantly better quality of sleep.
Additionally, melatonin can help with jet lag, a temporary sleep disorder.
Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone. Shift workers may also experience jet lag symptoms since they work during a time normally saved for sleep.
Melatonin can help reduce jet lag by syncing your internal clock with the time change.
Safety and Side Effects
Current evidence suggests that melatonin supplements are safe, non-toxic and not addictive.
That being said, some people may experience mild side effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, headaches and nausea.
Melatonin may also interact with a variety of medications. These include blood thinners, blood pressure medication and antidepressants.
If you take any of the above, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning a supplement.
There is also some concern that taking too much melatonin will stop your body from making it naturally. However, several studies have found that taking melatonin won’t affect your body’s ability to make it on its own
Consult your medical professional to see if melatonin is suitable for you.